Sunday, November 29, 2015

Major Fails This Football Season

Back home from the 2015 Egg Bowl, with a few hours rest.  I've been reflecting on the "major fails" from this season of football Saturday, and some have made swallowing last night's pill a little easier.

1.  Dear MSU defensive player number 11.  I didn't even bother to look your name up.  It's bad enough that you had all those missed tackles, but to have a little running back from TSUN bowl you over not once, but twice?  I commented that at least you were no longer in the game, then all my neighbors said "thank God!"

2.  To the man cub's girly friend that announced "oh dear, I seem to have left my student ID back at the house"  is BAD, especially when that is your ticket into the game!  Thankfully a scalper accepted $10 for an upper deck ticket!

3.  To the man cub for forgetting to bring the grill from the house, when grilled brats with onions and peppers was the "food item of the day".  God dropping all that rain on you during you return trip with grill in hand was a great explanation point!

4.  Spousal unit was a dot of red and blue in a sea of maroon last night.  She stood up to shake her red pom pom and was drowned out by the surrounding neighbor seats clanging their cowbell at her!  At one point, I had my cowbell tucked under my elbow and firmly planted on my thigh.  Turned out that red pom pom was stuck under the bell several times during the game.  Neighbor lady said "nice touch"!

5.  To all those well intended Grove beer drinkers that had a cooler crash and burn on that little bump in the road, or the ones that bought that cheap Styrofoam cooler with the faulty top, "better luck next time!"

6.  To the Ole Miss fan doing 80 mph up hwy 25 in the Blue Toyota 4 Runner with all those magnets on your car.  And you wonder why you were the one that got pulled over by MHP???

7.  One on me.  Had the truck loaded with gear and cart to haul tailgate stuff to the parking lot.  I casually set the bag with the chafing dish on top.  On the trip up HWY 25, a huge gust of wind rocks me like crazy!  I look in the mirror and see the chafing dish bag blowing out of the back, bam!  Landing in the middle of the road!  Quick uturn, pick it up before oncoming traffic arrives, open the bag, no harm, no foul.  WHEW!

8.  To the dude preparing the boiled peanuts  at MSU, Dude!  Add some spice in that pot!  Worst goobers ever!

9.  To the sound system guy in Starkvegas.   You have had two years to fix the muffled PA system when the house is at full capacity.  Time to punt and call in a backup!

10.  To the casual fan that brings bottle beer without screwtops and doesn't bring an opener, really???

11.  To the SEC and TV people that schedule those September games in the heat of the day,  kiss my a$$!  I've done it in Starkvegas once and Oxford once.  These bones are too old for this!  Will be passing these up in favor of the shade of a tailgate tent and an ice cold adult beverage of my choice!

12.  To the guy buying an ice cream cone in the student union.  The look on your face when the scoop of butter pecan fell off your cone onto the floor:  priceless!  Checkout clerk, replacement cone was a good save!

13.  Arriving at the park and ride lot at the Cochran Center 45 minutes too early, was a major fail.  But, got to walk off that huge burger from Mugshots!  Shuttle ride back had us out and on the highway in no time!

14.   As my buddy Kyle will attest, chafing dishes in weather with Temps of 40 and lower will not warm up without at least three or more burners lit under them.  Heated crockpot stored in insulated ice chests stay warm for hours!

15.  To those "fair weather fans" that are always looking for tickets, support your school, order season tickets or pony up and pay the going rate to resellers!  Sold out season ticket allotments and stadiums are a good thing!

That's a wrap for 2015.  Bowl games are right around the corner then we begin the eight plus month wait to do it all over again!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

HYDR Tailgating Crew

Being a split household can take its toll on you in the fall.  Two sets of tickets, travel in two different directions, food planning without duplication, and not mixing up you cheering!

We have two separate groups:  man cub and company in Starkvegas and the HYDR Tailgating Crew in Oxford.  Last weekend was our last gathering in Starkvegas and last night was the conclusion of "the Grove".

HYDR Tailgating Crew is quite a collective.  Members come, not every gameday, from Texas, Kansas, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Alabama, and of course Mississippi.  One weekend, We even had a group of guys join us that were from several other northern countries.  Occasionally, we get walk up guests from the opposing team looking for a cup, advise, drink, or even a meal!

We are quite a collective.  Queen Charla is the mother of all things Rebel.  The Allen Clan has pulled in members from far and wide. Brother Kyle is the king of the Weber Q, grilling quail, rabbit, boudin, green tomatoes, and lots of other things here and there.  Gina has a husband, Danny, that can somehow manage to get a hotel room when there are no rooms to be had!  We even have a collective of single, divorced women, that are a joy to clown around with!  Very few of us have anything in common, except for a love of tailgating in the land of the Grove!

Some were sorority sistas, some mutual friends from Rebel chat forums, and others  were befriended at the annual Ladies forum.  Me, I'm just a tag along spouse of 30 years that loves a party when food is involved!

We have had our spot, on the corner of University Blvd an Grove Loop for years.  The UPD tent is right in front, in the strategic location,  for educating the public on the "do's and don'ts of beer 101".  Several of these uniformed characters are kept well fed by HYDR!

The last game was special, with a victory over the corndog rivals from across the river.  But for our crew, it's not about the game.  It's  all about the tailgate by golly!    And just think, We get to do it all over again in nine months!  Hobby Lobby!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The End Is Near, Tailgating, Anyway

Seems like it was just yesterday, the days were hot, and excitement was building for another season of tailgating!  Now, the bitter chill is starting to set in that tailgating 2015 is almost over.

The reality of it is parked in my driveway.  Pickup loaded down, with three years of gear that has accumulated in Starkvegas:  three tents, three tables, ten chairs, two cooler bag stands, and various other items that you pick up here and there, all on sale, of course!

Man cub has worn himself out this season with doing our thing and also doing tent setup for Southern Tradition Tailgating.  He will be working for them during the Egg Bowl,  so we will just be attending the game.

It's kinda funny, having season tickets for both schools.  The game is the same, but that's where the similarities end.  We got "reseated" this year at both places.  Time to meet new people and build some new friendships.  New friend in Starkville yesterday shared a picture of the new grandbaby, and the loss of a parent, bittersweet for sure.  New friends in Oxford are actually an old family acquaintance  from growing up in Nelson in the 1960's.

You know the food was good when it's all gone by the end of the day. Makes for packing up that much easier.  In Starkville it's about feeding a bunch of college kids.  In Oxford, we're feeding the Popo!  Same outcome, food gone!

In Oxford, it's all about the Grove experience.  The tents, the table prep, the girls all dressed up, and watching folks learn the hard lessons regarding beer delivery and alcohol consumption.

In Starkville, we are a more laid back crew, over by the chapel.  Crowds are smaller but we still get to watch our favorite group cooking 18 slabs of ribs, an a dozen chickens, with open bar, music blaring, with two blowup couches, and 60 inch tv!

For me, it's all about the food prep.  Ok, what will it be this week?  I've lost count on how many batches of cheese straws and dozens of cookies have been baked. In past weeks it was briskets, pork butts and even tamales. This week it was prep for red beans and rice.  Figured that one out by cooking it in the crockpot and transporting it in ice chests.  Great substitutes for hot boxes, and the food was still steaming hot five hours later!

Yep, the end of tailgating is now upon us.  That truck is still in the driveway, and still loaded down.  Now time to figure where to store it all and at the same time start prepping for that last run to Oxford.

Nothing else left to say but #HailStatell and Hobby Lobby!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Angels in the Swimming Pool

The angels in heaven got a new swim instructor today when God put in a call for a new swim coach for his flock of angels.  The new swim instructor, Donna Palmer Collins comes in with a great resume.

Donna has spent years in the pool, teaching her three children how to swim and also her precious grandchildren.  She probably taught her husband Ray a few strokes or two as well!

Those angels better be putting some waterproofing on their wings.  Knowing Donna, she will have the females doing synchronized swimming, and the men will be doing underwater relay races.  Donna is no stranger to hard work and she will be preaching what she practiced, so angels, get ready!

If heaven has a basketball team, they have a new number one fan in Donna Collins.  Heaven's version of Facebook is going to be full of Donna's rants and praises for her new team.  She will most likely be watching out for her favorite team, the Memphis Grizzlies.
Donna worked so hard to prepare herself for the road that laid ahead of her.  She was at the gym putting in the roadwork to get her body ready for her transplant.  Any free time was spent tending after those grandkids of hers.  When her body would allow, she even joined them in the pool, fine tuning her craft, without realizing she had a new responsibility waiting on her.

This summer I took Donna with me on two trips, as a virtual breaks from her daily grind at the gym, and her constant reminder, the trusty old oxygen tank.  One trip was to the beach, with virtual margaritas in hand.  The other was to WDW Magic Kingdom, and her favorite ride, "It's a Small World".

All future trips to the beach will now include a margarita toast to my friend Donna, and all future trips to the Magic Kingdom will include a trip on my least favorite ride, "It's a Small World".  Just for you my friend!

Donna was a strong believer in God, and her faith never waivered.  I have to believe that is what pulled her through all of the medical issues she has dealt with past 20 plus years.

Donna leaves behind a wonderful man, Ray Collins.  Ray has always been by her side, her ever faithful servant.  Ray and Donna's family are in mourning  for their loss of this sweet woman.  Please join me in a prayer for them that their sorrows are soon turned into memories of joy.  That's how I'm  gonna remember her, Cheers Donna!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Ain't in No Hurry

Well, we are over here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.  Before the trip, I asked my FB peepers for suggestions on points of interest, and thang to do and such.  To my surprise, some of the peepers left a threw a few suggestions my way!

We looked them up, and thought "good deal"!  Once all the party arrived, we made out list.  The first day of excursions was in the surrounding area, visiting lakes and waterfalls.

Next on our list was a trip to Ashville, North Carolina to tour the Biltmore Estate.  Estimated duration of the trip over was an hour.  It hasn't taken the locals long to spot us on their roadways, with us taking the curves at 20-30 mph.  Hell, I normally take the Interstate exit ramps at over 40, but the Interstate doesn't have a granite gully on one side and a sheer dropoff on the other.  One of my passengers has left a lasting grip of the door handle of the car!  Finally, we were out of the mountains!

Our roadie trip took us thru Brevard, NC.  As you approached the town, the road was marked "temporarily closed for special event".  Okee dokee.  At this point I'm  hoping that "Dora the Explorer" (gps) will be able to find the straightest path back to our original route.  Apparently the community takes over the downtown area and puts on a harvest festival.  To the right of us was a farmers market.  I think one feller was confused and ended up at the wrong venue, as he was wearing a pig costume, including nose!  I started to look for a butcher among the market merchants!  Further up the road we saw a little boy dressed up as a lamb.  I figured he must be related to that fella in the pig costume!

At another intersection I spotted a water feature, and I yelled "cameras ready!  Water feature on your left!"  I didn't  get any takers for a pull over!

Our trip that was supposed to take an hour, almost took two.  We arrived at the Biltmore Estate ticket gate to pick up our will call tickets.  We had five minutes to spare for our tour time.  To our surprise, the house was several miles within the 8,000 acre estate!  Thank goodness that we paid for valet parking!

The drive through the estate and the approach to the house reminded us all of the PBS show Downton Abbey.  What a grand place Biltmore Estate is!  No pictures are allowed to be taken on the inside of the house, which is dimly lit, as it would be from its heyday in the early 1900s.  We did the walking tour, but I highly suggest that you upgrade to the narrated version to get a mental picture of the sights that you are taking in.  You can also upgrade to a guided tour.  I will opt for at least the hand held headset on my next visit.

The stables section of the estate provides you plenty of opportunities to spent your money, and lunch was a nice break for us before going to the basement level.

Somehow, I always seem to be in the right place at the wrong time.  I walked over to the recyclable  trash cans, and there was a nicely dressed woman leaning over the can.  I thought, surely not!  Yep, barfed dead center through the hole.  A few minute I turned and saw her complaining about her head, thinking she must have run into a door or something.  It wasn't  long before I spotted her again with the estate staff tending to her, now plopped into a wheel chair with an ice bag on her head.  The medical attendant reached into his bag and pulled out a red bad, that I thought might be a blood pressure cuff.  Nope.  It was a medical waste hazzard bag, that was now big put into service as barf bag Number 2!  We never saw or heard an ambulance so I guess the woman survived!

The exit is twice as long a ride as the entrance, taking you past several more opportunities to spend your money.  These is an Inn on the Estate than you can stay at.  It is built to resemble the Biltmore House.

On the trip home we made a side stop at Ingles grocery store to pick up a few supplies.  Nice store!
One cell phone went off giving us the alert that it was $.50 corndog day at Sonic, and I'll be dang if we didn't spot one along the way!

Our trip to Ashville ended up where we started, back on Sapphire Mountain.  There is much more to do in Ashville, but some in our party needed a break from all the "dead man's curves"  along the way!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Up and Down the Winding Road on Sapphire Mountain

In these parts, there are two kind of speeds, slow, and slower.  The locals naturally are the ones driving these roads slowly in anticipation of the next curve.  The ones that are going even slower are the tourists like you and me.

On this day, I was the appointed driver.  I was instructed to roll as slow as possible so that my passengers could take in all the scenery, and they would be at the ready for any Kodak opportunity that would pass by.

Our first stop was at Fairfield lake.  During season this lake is full of activity, including swimming, canoeing, and paddle boats.  The water was so clear you could see the reflections of the trees off the water:

In one curve, was a small give shop and restaurant that didn't  open until late afternoon.  As I pulled into the lot, the bridge in the next curve caught my eye.  In a small opening between the trees there seemed to be something that might be of interest.  As I pulled closer, we noticed that the road ahead was a private drive.  We all thought, what the hell, they can put the cuffs on us when we return.  This is what was around the bend of that private drive:

Toxaway Falls

We made a few inquiries for other stops on our journey today.  One stop recommended was Whitewater Falls.  The drive was short, along the many curves, and winding roads.   The location for the falls was within one of the national parks, and this one allowed hiking and overnight camping.  The trail to the falls was only a half mile, with a scenic vista along the way.  The sight was worth the walk as you can see from these photos:

Whitewater Falls

These pictures do not do the views justice.  We also posted a video of the falls on Facebook.                     

We ended our day with a dusk ride to the top of Cold Mountain.  We were in search for wilderness critters like turkeys, deer or bears.  The waitress made the suggestion during our lunch break.  We made it to the dead end top of Cold Mountain with not one critter sighting on the way.  Not feeling defeated, we made our way back down retracing our route in hopes of maybe seeing something.  Apparently seeing was not what Mother Nature had in mind.  Five miles from our weekend home we passed through the recently sprayed smell of skunk!  Two miles later, we spotted one of these striped critters crossing the road.

We could not wait to return to the safety of out wine, beer and bourbon, along with a.slow burning fire!  Now settling in with the anticipation of tomorrow's adventure!

Sapphire Mountain Here We Come

Never been much of a mountain guy.  Growing up, these kinda excursions didn't exist.  Beach bumming was easy to pick up, just some sand, surf, umbrella, chair, and a cooler bag of frozen margaritas and you are all set!

The mountains of North Carolina, now this is a whole nother ball game.  The umbrella and chair get left behind.  No shorts, tshirts or flippers this trip!  Had a sample last fall with a quickie to the tourist trap mecca of Gatlinburg with the offspring and girly friends.  At least I'm in the company of the spousal unit and some fellow beach nuts, so I won't go ape crazy by my lonesome!

Beaching is easy.  Just get in the car and go!  This mountain thang is a whole different kind of adventure.  Coming from central Mississippi, it becomes quite an adventure.  First thang is to load up the GPS with a destination.   This in itself is quite a challenge when using the spousal unit's new smartazz car.  You can't just use your normal southern drawn out voice when speaking to Dora the Explorer.  Like any woman, Dora has a mind of her own!

We headed east to Atlanta.  I'm used to the traffic, no biggie.  I figured that Dora would take the I385 loop around  Metro Atlanta.  Nope!  Straight shot on I20 then I75/I85.  It was around noon, but traffic in this town never slows.  I was tempted to take the commuter lane, but ole Dora was in charge.  Got to scratching my head once we were on I85 north bound.  Made no sense to me.  Heading north to first go through South Carolina to get to North Carolina.    But hey, Dora was in charge, and if I screw up, she doesn't mine, she just says "recalculating" in the nicest tone of voice.

But poor Dora.  This trip she was to be out done by directions written on a piece of paper.  The Spousal unit has a folder full of info, and it was full of turns and twists that poor ole Dora could hardly keep up with.

The exit off I85 could confound the average first timer.  It was a combination exit and rest area combined.  All the 18 wheelers pulled on the side of the road added to the confusion.  Once we got on State 11 we are off and running on the highways and byways of the rural of the Carolinas.

After a while, we got a look at our potential destination.  The sky was quite overcast, but in the distance, we could see what looked like either more clouds, or maybe it was the mountain tops of our destination.   It was only a matter of time before we would know for sure!

As we made our way, the four lanes turned into two lanes.  The straight paths began to get more windy. Up we would go, then down we went.  It was almost like a slow motion roller coaster in the comfort of our smartazz car.  Around one curve, there were a bunch of fellas on the side of the road, in hunter orange caps leaning on their pickups chewing the fat about today's hunt.  Two curves later, there was a covey of game warden trucks parked in a cluster.  I wanted to yell "they're two curves back!" But that's just not kosher in hunting country!  We quickly noticed we had no cell service, and around the next curve there was another member of the orange hat society, talking on a short wave radio.  If this is Carolina moonshine country I could see why!

Finally, a significant road sign ahead, "now entering the great State of North Carolina ".  How and why they chose that spot for the border beats the hell out of me.  Mountains on one side, Gulley on the other, and nothing but curvy roads behind and in front of us!  Destination less than an hour away!

One thing became very clear to me.  Back home, we have trees that go through the seasons of change, with a bit of color at the end.  Those trees are in the minor leagues!  As I was driving, I almost felt the urge on this cloudy day to put my sunglasses on.  The foliage hanging from the trees and road brush were almost literally on fire!  The brightest reds, oranges, and yellows that you can imagine were lighting up our two lane windy pathway.  So THIS is what it's all about!  This ain't  the beach, nope, it's a fall color wonderland!

Finally, another road sighting!  Saphire Mountain community!  So close!  Even saw the Wyndham Sapphire resort on the right, a possible return destination.  We knew we were close.  The road is now steeper, the speed is much slower and the smartazz car is using all kinda gears on some of these climbs.  We notice all the houses from the roadside.  The front doors are road level, but the rest of the houses are hanging off the side of these mountain!

We are now on roads that are less traveled.  The falling leaves far out number the cars that can blow them to the side of the road.  This is what we came for.  Destination has been reached!  Multi-storied four bedroom "house" that I consider a castle, stuck on the side of this mountain!  You walk through the front door, and in front of you is an open floor plan with this amazing view.  Dorothy, we ain't in Kansas anymore!

We unloaded our supplies and luggage and immediately began taking in the views!  The night was capped off with a roaring fire, a beautiful full moon peeking over the mountain top, and lots of stories, aided by wine, beer, and bourbon.

Can't wait for what the morning brings!